Expert Group advocates for more transparency among online platforms
In a report handed over today to Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel, the High-Level Expert Group on Fake News and Disinformation spread online suggests a definition of the phenomenon and makes a series of recommendations.
The High-Level Expert Group was set up to advise the Commission on the scope of the phenomenon of fake news. The appointed 39 experts brought together representatives of the civil society, social media platforms, news media organisations, journalists and academia.
The independent experts advocate for a Code of Principles that online platforms and social networks should commit to. The report complements the first insights from a public consultation and Eurobarometer survey also published today. These contributions will feed into the preparation of a Communication on tackling disinformation online, that the Commission will publish in spring.
The report from the High-Level Expert Group focusses specifically on problems associated with disinformation online rather than fake news. The experts deliberately avoided the term 'fake news', saying it is inadequate to capture the complex problems of disinformation that also involves content which blends fabricated information with facts.
The report defines disinformation as false, inaccurate, or misleading information designed, presented and promoted for profit or to intentionally cause public harm. This can threaten democratic processes, values and can specifically target a variety of sectors, such as health, science, education and finance. The report underlines the need to involve all relevant parties in any possible action, recommending first and foremost a self-regulatory approach.
The group recommends to promote media literacy to counter disinformation; develop tools for empowering users and journalists to tackle disinformation; safeguard the diversity and sustainability of the European news media; continuing research on the impact of disinformation in Europe.
It also advocates for a Code of Principles that online platforms and social networks should commit to. Among the 10 key principles outlined in the report, online platforms should, for instance, ensure transparency by explaining how algorithms select the news put forward. In cooperation with European news outlets, they are also encouraged to take effective measures to improve the visibility of reliable, trustworthy news and facilitate users' access to it.
These measures are particularly important ahead of electoral periods. Finally, the Group recommends to establish a multi-stakeholder coalition to ensure that the agreed measures are implemented, monitored and regularly reviewed.
According to the latest Eurobarometer survey (around 26,000 citizens interviewed), people perceive that there is a lot of fake news across the EU with 83% of respondents saying that this phenomenon represents a danger to democracy. It emphasises also the importance of quality media: respondents perceive traditional media as the most trusted source of news (radio 70%, TV 66%, print 63%). Online sources of news and video hosting websites are the least trusted source of news with a trust rate of 26% and 27%, respectively.
12 March 2018